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Barbour sheriff to repay misspent county funds

PHILIPPI -- A West Virginia sheriff facing unrelated troubles over the alleged sexual assault of a teenage girl says he'll repay some $700 in county funds that an audit says were misspent.

The spending by Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins between 2010 and 2012 has been referred to the state Ethics Commission for investigation, media outlets report. Two audits found that he bought flowers, gift cards and alcohol for office staff and deputies with money from his department's concealed-weapons permit fund.

County Commission President Jedd Schola said commissioners were unaware of the spending. Any punishment for the action will be up to the ethics commission, he said.

Hawkins was sued in July by a 19-year-old Moatsville woman who says he assaulted her in 2011 and threatened to kill her if she told anyone. He was then sued by a private investigator who claims the sheriff defamed him during his work on the rape case.

Hawkins has denied wrongdoing in either case.

The Barbour County Commission has also said it will fight the accusations and that it's found no evidence to support them.

State ethics guidelines allow public funds to be used to honor employees and promote morale, as long as the amount spent is $25 or less per person.

The audit also found that three employees were issued payments from the weapons fund that were not reported on tax forms. Such payments must be done through the proper payroll procedures, the audit said, and no more cash advances will be allowed.

Schola said the employees involved had been hired to remove a trailer and belongings after a property owner died. There was no lease agreement, but he said the people who inherited the property wanted it removed and a Barbour County magistrate judge approved it.

The audit also faulted the County Commission for bookkeeping, noting that some items were purchased without the required itemized receipts. Auditors also cited untimely payments and deposits, an insufficient division of employees' duties and failure to include compensated absences on financial documents.


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